London Ride 100 experience
The week prior I ate like a queen, gone was the morning porridge, ham and salad wrap for lunch and a microwave meal for tea! Instead I was having breakfasts baps, for lunch — noodles, pasta or rice invariably with chicken, and for dinner more of the same!
It was certainly not a sedate relaxing Saturday the day before with Run Directing parkrun, trip to Boots and the tip, food shopping and an entire house clean! I think I sat for 10mins to have lunch before finally relaxing over dinner at 8.30pm to only realise that I’d better go to bed to get some shut eye before the big day!
A semi restless night with waking at 4am before the alarm went off at 6.15am. Leaving me enough time to get dressed and attempt to fuel myself with porridge and take in some liquid! With the precarious balance of drinking too much and needing the toilet! I can never get the balance right.
With mum and dad taking a slight detour in the 10 week holiday to very kindly drop me off at the start point, we left just before 7 in the end in the knowledge that some riders were already underway. With a quick sort out at the Drop zone, finally checks and some heart-warming hugs and good luck! I set off of on the 5 mile ride to the Start.
I can recall from last year how this was the most treacherous part of the ride, with impatient drivers all ready caught in traffic and particularly the last mile where cars are still driving in and around the vicinity. As I neared the Olympic Park more and more fellow riders were arriving as we all headed to are start waves. Kit bag handed over to the many volunteers that so kindly give up their day to sort out the mass baggage operation, and more good lucks! With one final toilet stop I headed to the start wave.
The weather was certainly an improvement on last year with a clear blue sky and warm from the sun already, it was looking positive!
The wave area contained much feeling of trepidation as we started to move forward every 5 mins or so, with PR system becoming more audible each time. Some riders discussed the crazy conditions of last year while others talked of training rides overseas. At last it was our wave and our chosen song was Glory Ganner, I will Survive! How apt! And we were off, most riders choosing to ring their bells as they crossed the start line!
I knew I needed to pace myself throughout the ride, in order to conserve energy for the distance. The longest training ride I did was 68 and most of that was into a headwind, not the easiest of rides! So for a good long while as we made our way into central London, I witnessed many riders whizz past me as I took the time to look around and take in the surroundings.
It was lovely as we came through the City and into Trafalgar Square, that mum and dad had made it to the 10mile marker! More cheering and good lucks ensued, and ‘see you later’!
On I pedaled, making sure I slowed down to 14 miles an hour on the flats, when in actual fact it felt like we were descending the majority of the time! Through the tunnels that echoed that saw many a whoops, as yet more cyclists zoomed past!
I made sure I was taking on liquid regularly and having a nibble of the chewy bar every hour. This helped tremendously to keep me going, and not to focus on the time or distance remaining! Before I knew it I was recognising the points at which is all started to go wrong last year, as I merrily went passed mile 18…
This time last last year Mile 18 was the place where I stood helpless in the downpour, attempting to find protection under a tree and failing miserably! I’d walked back up to the drinks station only to find they’d no inner tubes left and no one really able to tell me what I should do! So in the rain (although by the road now a fast flowing river, I’d saw monsoon), getting more soaked (to the point where I couldn’t get anymore wet) I started to walk. I passed marshals who asked if I was okay, but with two inner tubes busted I’d had to drop out and at that point not at my best. The nearest tube was several miles away and with no sign of any help I had no choice but to walk. After 15 mins I met two ladies walking towards me, they’d also had to drop out purely down to the weather being so bad. Then in the distance I see a vehicle, the broom wagon, he pulled up alongside to check on me. And I have to say reluctantly stopped to see if they could fit me in. Opening the back of the van up I could see a number of bikes haphazardly laid on top of each other, ‘protected’ with throws. I wished my bike good luck and made my way into the van. I’d got the last seat! And also saw the two guys that helped with my first puncture at about mile 14.
We drove slowly along the route, the radio going the whole time, clearly they were behind schedule. At this point we were passing riders who were basically told to get off the course as their ride was over, their number was taken and HQ were notified. The sheer disappointment of so many, and the helplessness of ‘what am I meant to do’ ‘how do I get back’ on each occasion ‘I’m sorry we’re full, you’ll need to make your own way back.’
We got dropped off at 1st major hub where we’d been told another van across the other side of the Hub would take as a more direct way back to the Mall. Once over the other side we discovered that we had in fact been led down the garden path, the other van was equally as full so we were left stranded. By this time, the cold had taken its toll, we therefore headed to St. John’s for a foil blanket and a hot sweet tea before we walked onto to the nearest tube. There were riders that were completing the route faster than we got to the finish line! From Embankment Tube we shamefully walked down the Mall and had to explain to each security guard that we needed to get through to collect our bags.
Back to present day…
I couldn’t have felt more opposite, as I continued to clock up the miles! Before I knew it I was at mile 26, my first planned stop at one of the three main hubs. The very hub that saw the bitter end of my ride last year! With a quick top of the bottle, and two flapjack squares I was on my way again! Knowing that I had less distance to go to the next stop, only 22 miles!
It was during this stage that it was clear accidents were taking place, with at least 3 results of accidents witnessed; protected by recovery vans and ambulances I didn’t want to see anymore! I focused on my ride, and hoping to stay upright!
Going through Kingston was great, there were people lining the streets, cheering us all on, it was absolutely wonderful to see. So much so that I was starting to get a bit choked up, and all I kept thinking was ‘if I’m like this now, what I be like later on.’ With this stage saw Newlands Corner, all i knew was that it was a climb, I’d watched YouTube videos and thought I knew what to expect. What it actually was felt like 6 miles of gradual never-ending incline. But I took it on slowly and steadily knowing that Leith and Boxhill were still to come! And once again the 2nd Hub seemed to come around all too quickly. Word got round that this hub had run out of food, luckily this didn’t affect me as I was very well prepped with food fuel! Once again, I finished the bottle, ate my two flapjack squares and had a quick toilet stop this time. With a second text update to dad, I was off again. This next stage was going to be the toughest, Leith, Box and a further distance to the 3rd and final planned stop. Deep breathe… And I’m off…
From Newlands it was downhill which was great! More of this would be great I thought, as the miles ticked by! At one point I did see my Garmin getting closer to 40mph, it was at that point I decided to concentrate on the road ahead.
I can’t remember now but at a couple of points on the ride it happened where we had to get over for recovery vans, bikes and at one point an ambulances, or precariously pass the vans in single file down the narrow country lanes.
Having been treated to a Ride 100 fitness video from my Bro and his family for my birthday, I soon began to recognise the roads so I know we were getting nearer to Leith. With each turn I was calming myself down, just take it slow and steady. I was making okay time, and luckily no punctures. As we turned one corner I could see a very steep hill ahead, with cyclists out of saddles peddling up and riders walking their bikes up either side. I got into my lowest gear and pushed on. I’d like to think I could’ve made it the whole way, but I had to stop as the guy in front ground to a halt. With too many riders and the climb being too steep and walked a 100 yards until I felt the gradient was comfortable enough to gain momentum then I was off again! There were a few more gradual climbs if I can recall but then we started descending. I was confused as I hadn’t passed some of the markers on Leith that I’d embedded into my head but at that point I, along with a few other riders, were saying well ‘that wasn’t too bad’ and on we went.
It wasn’t until we were making our way to Boxhill that I noticed the mile makers were out of sync by 4 miles. I’d seen both short cut routes so knew I hadn’t inadvertently cut the course. I check with other riders to see what mileage they were at, we were all short. It wasn’t until we were on the first section of Box in conversation with a couple that due to an incident the top of Leith had been cut out. As time went on it was emerging that someone had had CPR, there was an air ambulance lift, and a possible heart attack!
Since the ride the news quickly broke that a gentleman had indeed passed away at the summit of Leith. My thoughts were and are still with his family and friends, and all those affected. Such great sadness for a loss of life — fuller article
Boxhill is a climb I knew, having done it once before a few years back with the Bianchi boys on the first official club ride. I felt overjoyed at not using my lowest gears this time, and in all honesty breezed up the two miles. On this occasion there was a magnificent view and a fair number of selfies going on, but that wasn’t for me today as I carried on fully aware that whilst I’d gained a safety net of time, there was still opportunities for dreaded punctures. There were a few more little climbs to concur before the last Hub stop.
Mile 72 for me, 76 for others, the finally Hub was insight! I took my time at this one, took more liquid in and had my finally two flapjack squares. I had a niggling headache by this point hence the extra liquid intake, and I was beginning to tire of my electrolyte drink. One final text to dad, the last stage was mine for the taking.
The crowds, I have to say, were awesome, all along the route. Young families, couples having picnics, the elderly, babies, all clapping, cheering, blowing whistles, shaking cow bells, and screaming ‘go pink lady’! It was awesome and helped pushed me along.
It was around mile 80 that my headache just wasn’t going away. And I was starting to feel sick. All I wanted at this stage was water, nice plain cold water. It was the second to last climb, Coombe hill, that I decided to take a 5 mins recoup. Forcing myself to finish my chewy bar, I really couldn’t face it, so in the bin it went. I forced the drink down me, thinking the headache must be dehydration. I topped the water bottle up one final time, and thought I’d better take an energy gel to give me that last push to the end. With the headache showing no signs of calming, I pushed on for the last time.
I made sure I took as much of the atmosphere in as I could for the final 20 miles. Once again, going back through Kingston was choking me up as we went passed crowds. We then started seeing KM signs for the Pro Classic Race, the end was coming up quickly now. I started clocking the miles remaining, and smiling to myself that ‘I can do this, I can actually do this’. Soon enough we’d crossed back over the Thames and once again I recognised the road from the DVD. I felt good, minus the headache, so I upped my cadence. 5 miles to go. ‘That’s nearly two laps of my sprint training’. 4 miles to go. ‘Wow. Oh wow’. 3 miles to go. ‘parkrun distance’. 2 miles to go ‘I can’t believe I’ve nearly done it’. The Houses of Parliament come into sight as the crowds build again, I don’t think I saw the last mile marker, I knew with a few more corners it would be the finishing straight. I was struggling to keep back the tears as I was chuckling to myself by this point. The crowd were cheering, banging on the barriers. I turned and saw Nelson’s Column straight ahead! This was it! One final corner. I never thought in a million years I’d have the energy at this stage, laughing at the DVD saying ‘one last sprint, go go go’. But I did, knowing mum and dad weren’t on the Mall, once through the arches as I got into The Mall, I saw a way through, head down, I pedaled, pedaled hard! Whilst trying to keep hold of the atmosphere. This could be a once in a lifetime experience, so I really went for it! The finish line was in sight, and with 100 yards to go, I was really laughing at the achievement, overjoyed and overwhelmed by how far I’d come. Up went my left arm, punching the air in celebration as I crossed the line before 4 o’clock. ‘Yes!, I’ve actually done it!’ It felt fabulous! Incredible. Speechless.
Now off the bike, and the Garmin stopped. I happily bowed my head to have my medal placed around my neck! I was so happy! Onwards to baggage reclaim, where I saw my fellow runners helping out from Orpington Road Runners! And then finally after 8 and half hours, I was reunited with mum and dad, and a surprise appearance from Dave and his daughter! Many hugs all round, and tears! As well as the proud parent-daughter moment, it was mum and dad I was equally proud of! They’d been up as long as me, and on their feet this whole time waiting for my crazy adventure to end! And my goodness, what an adventure!
(Thanks to Laura for the pic!)
One back home, as with many Strava obsessed peeps, up went my rides! 101miles achieved in one day! PBs smashed with my longest ride, and a much faster ascent up Boxhill. My top speed was 39.4 mph. And somehow I’d manage to claim QM for a section through the city on the way out! What surprised me more was that I wasn’t exhausted, I didn’t collapse asleep on the train, no saddle soreness, no arm or neck ache! I felt fabulous!
And yes, the ballot opens Monday 10th August, of course I’ll be applying! This time hopefully with Dad in tow!
Originally published at www.catwoods.co.uk on August 9, 2015.